1. What is your overall opinion of The Penelopiad? Would you recommend it to a friend? Why, or why not?
2. Consider the personalities of the women in The Penelopiad, especially Penelope, Helen, and Penelope’s mother. How are they different? What do they tell us about women’s roles, within the poem and without?
3. Is Penelope a reliable narrator? Do you believe her version of events?
4. What do the various poetic and musical forms Margaret Atwood uses to tell the maids’ story bring to the telling? Why do you think she chose to write The Penelopiad in this way?
5. “Down here everyone arrives with a sack, like that sacks used to keep the winds in, but each of these sacks is full of words — words you’ve spoken, words you’ve heard, words that have been said about you.”
Discuss gossip and rumour / truth and lies in The Penelopiad.
6. If you have read other retellings of The Odyssey, compare The Penelopiad. You could look at Ulysses (by James Joyce) or O Brother Where Art Thou (directed by the Coen brothers), and discuss how each adapts and alters the original. Or, if you have read any, compare The Penelopiad’s approach to that taken by other writers in the Myths series.
7. “The heart is both key and lock.” How would you describe the marriage of Odysseus and Penelope?
8. How does The Penelopiad fit with other works by Margaret Atwood? Does she pursue similar themes here as elsewhere? If so, does she do so in the same way or differently?
9. How is Odysseus presented in The Penelopiad, as opposed to in The Odyssey? Why?
10. The Penelopiad is being turned into a piece for the stage. How would you cast it?
11. What are your criticisms of The Penelopiad?